Los Alamos Makes National Geographic’s ‘Best Secret Ski Towns of North America’ List

Pajarito Mountain. Photo by Jason Halladay


By Aaron Teasdale
National Geographic

Most people haven’t heard of these towns, which is just fine with the skiers and boarders that live and play there.

These are the places without gloss, the unknown gems, where the locals are friendly and shops are locally owned. Some have terrain for everyone, while many are for experts with avalanche training. Typically reached via long miles of scenic driving, they all deliver some of the most unspoiled skiing North America has to offer.

Los Alamos: Best for Cold War history buffs with a taste for green chilies.

For years Los Alamos wasn’t just a secret ski town, it was a secret town, period. High on the hidden Pajarito Plateau of the Jemez Mountains, 35 miles northwest of Santa Fe, the Los Alamos National Laboratory was established here by the U.S. government at the height of World War II as a top-secret facility to develop the nuclear bomb.

The Lab and town that sprung up around it to house scientists wasn’t revealed to the public until 1950. In the meantime, the scientists had formed a ski club and manufactured their own rope tow inside the lab. From there, Pajarito Mountain was born. Los Alamos is now a strange and strangely compelling town of 12,019 people, many of whom have post-docs and can’t tell you what they do for a living.

Befitting a town of supernerds, many of the restaurants close early and there are few bars. But there’s an orchestra, theater, and, unsurprisingly, a science museum, while the setting—on the fingers of a mountainside mesa riddled with canyons—is stunning.

Pajarito Mountain is only six miles outside town. At 700 acres with 1,440 feet of vertical and five chairlifts it’s not huge, but there’s no such thing as a lift line and the mountain has some 35-degree, black-diamond plunges that will entertain advanced skiers.

Come to Los Alamos not just for the skiing but also to experience one of the most unique areas, and towns, in the U.S.

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